We have enough housing stock, it is just unequally and unevenly distributed
We cannot afford the high embedded carbon of new ‘efficient’ homes, we need to retrofit current homes
Net carbon zero means an average European citizen’s annual carbon footprint of eight tonnes must be reduced to one tonne. This will require systemic change PLUS lifestyle change. So what does this mean for housing strategy?
Upfront Carbon Emissions (UCE) are released in the making of materials, moving them and turning them into stuff. It takes over 50 tonnes CO2 to build an average UK house
Building thousands of new homes a year in London will not solve the housing crisis. And will quickly burn through our limited carbon budget. New homes are sold abroad as investments and left largely empty while fewer and fewer young people can afford to buy or rent in the city.
“‘What seems to be emerging is a two-tier property market with multiple ownership expanding in direct proportion to the rise in new builds, while millions can’t afford any kind of home, no matter how many are built.”
Often homes that would have accommodated a whole family are now occupied by a single person. This is clearly an inefficient use of the embedded carbon invested in our housing stock.
Some of our policies seem increasingly outdated in this context. For instance, currently one person living in a six bedroom home can receive a 25% single person discount on Council Tax. The rules just state that the property must be occupied by only one adult resident over 18 and it must also be that individual’s sole or main residence. This discount is awarded regardless of size of property or under-occupation.
Evidence for the Mayor’s Housing Strategy 2015 (Page 103) shows that under-occupation is far higher in private dwellings than it is in social housing. Approximately 1.2 million bedrooms are empty in London’s owner occupied housing, even allowing for a spare room.
When people move into tiny homes, they adopt greener lifestyles. Every major component of a downsizer’s lifestyle is influenced, including food, transportation, and consumption of goods and services.
Moving home and downsizing can be initially stressful. But ultimately liberating. This document describes how facilitating decision-making can help older downsizing homeowners.
One in 10 UK adults, or 5.2 million people, own a second home, while four in 10 adults own no property at all, according to new research that highlights the stark divide in wealth that Britain now faces.
London has a total of 20,237 long-term vacant properties (2017). Many properties are bought by wealthy buyers who snap up homes as investments and leave them empty while waiting for the value to increase before selling them on. Tighter squatting laws have made it more difficult for local residents, and young people, to make use of empty properties. A friend has told me that a house next door to him in central London has been empty for over 8 years!
Norway and Denmark limit second-home ownership, and in 2012 the Swiss voted to restrict second homes. Australia has also clamped down on foreign purchases of residential property.
If your home is near your work then your carbon footprint from transport will fall considerably, potentially more than halving your carbon footprint. This is why reducing under-occupation and unoccupied buildings in cities is crucial. We need key workers living near their work. Not commuting for miles to their place of employment.
- We cannot afford the high embedded carbon of new ‘efficient’ homes, we need to retrofit current homes
- Mobilising to insulate current homes, installing decarbonised cooling and heating systems is the priority for jobs, finance and strategy in London.
- Geothermal Green Streets – Ground source renewable energy on every viable street – replacing car parking spaces and car parks with ground source heat pumps and then re-greening as community gardens. Note: The term ‘geothermal energy’ refers to any heat derived from the ground. The ground acts as a solar battery and, for this heat, utilisation usually requires a heat pump. This energy is widely described as ‘ground-source energy’ or ‘shallow geothermal energy’.
- Pinning solar to every viable roof will give energy democracy and energy security to Londoners
- Solar community micro-grids
- All housing infrastructure is embedded carbon
- Wasteful use of that embedded carbon is not aligned with a sustainable low-carbon future
- Current policy to keep building new homes is not sustainable. Upfront Carbon Emissions are too high
- We need to tax space in privately owned dwellings
- We need to apply a bedroom tax to under-occupied private dwellings
- We must give clear tax advantages (or even pay people) to have lodgers
- We must facilitate decision-making that can help the older homeowner downsize
- We must create squatting laws / legal communes that give people immediate access to unoccupied dwellings (in a suitable legal framework)
- We must ban second home ownership
- We must fine empty home owners
- Keep homes for residents
- Encourage and reward communal living
- Cap rents